Located in Kalaupapa, on the island of Moloka’i, the Kalaupapa National Historic Park has had quite a dark role to play when it comes to the history of Hawaii. When Hansen’s Disease, otherwise known as leprosy, was introduced to the island in the 1830’s by foreign workers, Kalaupapa was designated as an isolation settlement, housing those who had been afflicted by the then-incurable disease. These historic settlements have been preserved throughout Kalaupapa National Historic Park, and, combined with the incredible natural beauty that the park boasts, it is a great destination at which to learn more about a turbulent time in Hawaii’s past.
Learning About Kalaupapa’s History
In order for the public to learn as much as possible about Kalaupapa’s sad past, Kalaupapa National Historic Park works hard to preserve all of their authentic historic features. From the buildings to the roads to the grave markers, the history that is still clearly visible throughout the park is definitely impressive. The park is also home to a museum collection that tells the story of the devastation that leprosy caused, with over 300,000 objects to depict this, including first-hand accounts from those who were directly affected by the disease. Kalaupapa is still home to a number of people who contracted leprosy, suffering for a while before they were eventually cured in later years.
Hawaii is the most isolated island chain in the world, and it is truly incredible to imagine how the islands slowly filled with animal life over the years, with creatures that were either drifted in by the sea or blown in by the wind. The islands of Hawaii are known for their natural diversity, with 95% of their native animals not being found anywhere else in the world. The isolation and seclusion of the Kalaupapa National Historic Park means that it provides a protective sanctuary for a vast array of wildlife, from rare tropical fish to endangered birds to colorful marine life.
Kalaupapa Mule Tour
One of the most popular ways to explore the Kalaupapa National Historic Park is on the back of a mule, with guided tours taking you to some of the highlights of the park. In addition to having the opportunity to ride down the highest sea cliffs in the world, visitors are able to experience and learn about the park’s history from a traditional, but unique, perspective.
For those that are interested in nature, there are a number of plant varieties in the Kalaupapa National Historic Park that promise to fascinate you, as well as areas of incredible natural beauty. From native palms to endangered grasses to lava tubes and caves to soaring sea cliffs, the natural beauty around the park is wonderfully diverse.
A small peninsula of lush land that is surrounded by steep cliffs, visitors can easily see why Kalaupapa was chosen as a quarantine area when leprosy became rampant in Hawaii. The park’s history, as well as its untouched natural beauty, which is perfectly reminiscent of Old Hawaii, serves as a significant reminder of some of the struggles that Hawaii has faced over the years, the effects of which still haunt the Kalaupapa National Historic Park today.